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Summer Tips for Your Career Development

Summer is as good a time as any to invest in your professional development! Whether you already have your eyes set on the job of your dreams or are considering a range of career paths, there are several activities that can help you reach your professional goals. Below are a just a few to get your started.

Use a career assessment or career exploration tool. Career assessments can help you identify your strengths, skills, and values in relation to jobs that pique your interest. These assessments can also help you narrow down particular fields or industries that are a match with your career goals. If you’re in the humanities or social sciences, consider checking out the career exploration tool called ImaginePhD (master’s students can use this as well). If you’re in the STEM disciplines, try out myIDP Science Careers. Both tools are free!

Lead informational interviews. An informational interview is an informal conversation with a professional working in a field of interest to you. It is an opportunity for you to engage in a meaningful conversation to hear and learn about an individual’s career trajectory, knowledge of a particular industry, additional networking referrals, and more. These insights can help you make informed choices during your job search. The Career and Internship Center on the Seattle campus refers to an informational interview as a career conversation.

Be a volunteer or intern. If you’re exploring a range of career paths, consider being a volunteer or intern on a short-term basis. Explore paid and unpaid internship opportunities listed on Handshake (a free service for UW students). If being a volunteer or intern involves too much of a time commitment for you and your schedule, considering setting up a job shadow experience to get a feel for a particular profession. Keep in mind that being a volunteer or intern to gain professional experience is neither extra-curricular nor a distraction to writing a thesis or dissertation — these work experiences can help you gain skills and make you a stronger candidate for jobs outside of academia. Here’s another article about pursuing internships while being a graduate student. 

Read job postings. Reading job listings are important to career exploration. Derek Attig has come up with several self-reflective strategies that make perusing job ads less tedious and more useful. Ask yourself the following questions: (1) Can I imagine myself doing the tasks required for this job? (2) Do the values of the employer resonate with my own? (3) What might I dislike about the job I am reading about? (4) Am I on board with the mission of the employer?

We encourage you to take the time to invest in your professional development this summer and let us know what career tips work for you! Finally, you are receiving this newsletter based on your affiliation as a new or returning graduate student at the University of Washington. If you wish to unsubscribe from this newsletter, please click here and visit this blog post for directions on managing your subscription preferences.

Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs
UW Graduate School

Being Intentional and Productive This Summer

Summer is the perfect time to make room for activities and experiences that will help you be—and feel—prepared for the coming academic year! The pace can feel slower during this time of the year, and there’s a little more wiggle room to be intentional about visualizing and achieving your intellectual, professional, and interpersonal goals. Maybe you’re starting from scratch (or already have some initial goals) and just need a plan of action. Maybe you need some structured time and support to work on a writing project? Or maybe you’re interested in career development activities?

No matter where you’re at, below are some initial strategies that can help you create intentional space for productivity this summer!

Create a plan to meet your goals. As graduate students—and as whole people with complex lives—we know that completing your graduate degree is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to meeting your goals. And we know it takes time to reflect on the skills you already possess—and the academic, professional, and interpersonal competencies you’d like to develop in the future.  Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) can help you map out realistic, achievable goals for your time in graduate school and beyond. Use your IDP as a roadmap for meeting with mentors and advisors. What’s great about an IDP is that you can adapt and revise as you see fit!

Make progress on your writing. Whether you are working on a thesis, dissertation, or an article for publication, set achievable and concrete writing goals for yourself this summer. In past Core Programs newsletters, we encouraged you to start out by setting aside 15-minute blocks of time to write each day. Then try working your way up to 30-minute chunks of time. You’ll eventually see that you’re making progress. Reach out to peers (they can be peers outside of your graduate program too) to schedule skype and/or in-person writing support group meetings. You can receive and share constructive feedback on writing projects and hold each other accountable to getting tasks done. Finally, here are great tips on how to move past feeling stuck in a writing rut from Dr. Kerry Anne Rockquemore, President of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity.

Get involved in professional development activities. There are many ways to brush up on your professional development this summer. 1) Update your CV or resume with skills and professional experiences you have gained from 2016–2017. 2) Identify conferences you’d like to present your work at for the coming year and mark those proposal and registration deadlines on your calendar. 3) Set up informational interviews to network with professionals currently working in fields or companies you’re interested in working for. 4) Volunteer in your local community to gain skills and to give back. 4) Contact your UW career center at Bothell, Tacoma, or Seattle for guidance with your internship or job search. 5) Check out just a few of our Core Programs newsletter links below on professional development:

Research funding opportunities. Whether you are seeking travel funds to participate in an academic or professional conference or grants to fund your research, start by learning about the breadth of possible funding opportunities available to you. Because application deadlines and eligibility requirements vary widely—and can sneak up on you when you’re busy during the academic year—it’s always a good idea to plan in advance.

Funding Information Resources

We hope you find these strategies useful, and please let us know of tips that worked for you!

Core Programs Team

Finding the Right Fit for Your Talent

In late January 2016, the Graduate School co-hosted an annual Career Symposium for graduate students and postdocs. We wanted to share just a few pearls from the terrific UW alums who sat on the panel and also hosted conversations during the networking reception. Bottom line: the job search is about finding the right fit for your talent. Be creative about your career options, test out new ways to tell the story of your (deep) experience and skill set, and it is never too early to start exploring and building your network.

Getting Started

  • Evolve your resume. Your resume should always be evolving.  Describe examples of specific accomplishments, including those that came up during your education and training.  What problems did you approach, how did you solve them, with what results?
  • Build your experience. Find out what the key skills or top tools are used in the field of interest, and learn them. Look at the whole picture of your experience, inside and outside of graduate education.  Align your skill sets to particular positions or organizations. Use specific examples in your talking points and written materials with the goal of making yourself stand out from an applicant pool.
  • Demonstrate excellent communication skills (in writing and in person). Be able to discuss complex ideas in a simple, clear, concise fashion. Especially, be ready to describe what you are working on for your research in 30 seconds or less in a way that anyone can understand.
  • Consider entry-level positions. Don’t get discouraged by entry-level positions.  It can be helpful to get your foot in the door, demonstrate your contribution and capability and depending on the organization (check this out first) you can move up within 3-6 months.
  • Find your passion. Pay attention to your energy and passion as those are the kinds of jobs you should be looking for (and not others!).


  • Start early. It is never too early to start building and growing your network.
  • Talk about your talent and passion. Practice. Get comfortable. Own it, but without arrogance. Do mock interviews.
  • Set up networking meetings – informational interviews. Identify target companies to start with to narrow your options.
  • Use LinkedIn strategically. Start with classmates, alums, professors.  Join groups that might create good professional connections.
  • Attend receptions. Send a resume to those you’ve connected with as a follow up. Personal connections always move a resume up if it is already in the pool. Face-to-face meetings spark interest and connection.
  • Ask questions. You are interviewing the informant and the organization to determine fit as much as they are interviewing you.  Show them you want to know what the work is like, that it matters to you (that is, you aren’t just looking for “a job”). Questions you can ask: what is your day-to-day work like? What is the best part of what you do? The most challenging? What is the culture like here? What would you change about your job (or the organization) if you could?


  • Phone interview. Phone interviews are important.  Always prepare as you would for an in-person, and follow up with a thank you email or note.
  • Answering technical questions. If they ask you a technical question, or to solve a technical problem during the interview, how should you handle it?  The interviewers mostly want to know how you think rather than the answer to the problem.  It is important to show how you would approach the problem, what you’d consider, and why.
  • Be relationally savvy. Organizations are looking for people who will be colleagues.
  • Show resilience. You can’t always control what interviewers will ask or how they will behave.  Show some resilience and keep your composure, as well as keeping things in perspective.  If you don’t like how you were treated in an interview, chances are you don’t want to work there anyway!
  • Not hearing back. You might not hear back. Have persistence. Keep honing your materials and learning from the process.

Interviews are helpful as I can tell right away if someone has the logic skills of a squirrel.”
– Mike Bardaro (UW Chemistry alum), Senior Data Scientist AOL


Originally posted on January 28, 2016.

Effective Job Search Tips from Employers

You’re investing time (and money) building your skills, knowledge, and experience in graduate school, and earning that degree is just one piece of the puzzle in your professional development. As you think about future career options (inside or outside of academia), there are a number of things to consider–and work on–to help you be the right match between you and potential employers.

Check out these strategies:

Reflection.  Reflect on what you really want. What are you passionate about? What type of impact do you want to make? What work environment would best suit you? Imagine yourself in different environments and jobs – what draws you in?

Build Relationships.  Networking, meeting people, becoming known, expressing genuine curiosity in others – is absolutely critical. Informational interviews, mixers, conferences, and coffee meetings are all great strategies to build relationships. Be intentional in your approach to networking and always try to walk away with two names of potential contacts. Often times, job candidates who make it through the first round of resume screenings are those who have somebody advocating for their application.

Professionalism.  Evaluate and maintain your brand and professionalism – examples include an intuitive e-mail address, an appropriate voicemail message, a polished and up-to-date LinkedIn profile, and non-embarassing posts/pictures on social media sites.
Translate – Practice internalizing and communicating how aspects of your graduate work translates into a broader skill set – project management, meeting multiple deadlines on time, problem-solving, clear and effective communication, etc.

Communicate.  Practice communicating your work to all different types of audiences, at different levels of detail, in different mediums – academic presentations, posters, concise slide decks, executive summaries, and conversations with your neighbors are some examples.
Intangibles – Be confident about what you bring to the table; passionate about your background and the job opportunity; genuine and true to yourself; steer clear of being presumptuous or full of yourself.

Focus on the Employer.  Convince recruiters that you want to do those tasks, in that job, in that organization, in that sector. Directly state how you will bring value to them, what you can do for their organization, and what you can do to further that company’s goals. This requires that you research employers very carefully–mission, environment, catalysts for change, job description, etc.

Application Materials.  Create targeted, specific, non-generic application packets that convey why you want the position. Use specific words from the job description in your cover letters and resumes. Quantify your contributions when possible and discuss the impact or results of your work. Have somebody proofread your materials; simple things like spelling errors can get your application tossed out. Treat the job search like a job and give it the effort it deserves.

Interviews.  Take the interviewing process seriously and prepare ahead of time. Anticipate what you’ll be asked. Role-play various interview questions. Prepare a few examples in advance that show qualities you wish to highlight. Effective stories will be succinct and include: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Be specific. Focus on your role in projects you’re discussing. Make good eye contact.

Tips gathered by Briana Randall from the Employer Panel at the 11th Annual Career Symposium & Networking Reception–an event co-sponsored by the Graduate School and Career Center in January 2015. Briana is the Associate Director of the Career Center. Check out more academic and non-academic career development resources.